Tuesday, April 5, 2011

CATHOLIC CHURCH TELLS CONGRESS: Protect our Poor and Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters

This week Congress must act on the current FY 2011 spending bill to avert a government shutdown. Some current proposals include deep cuts to programs that serve the poorest, most vulnerable people at home and abroad. Likewise a shutdown of government services will fall most heavily on those who have the fewest resources. Fiscal responsibility is important, but it demands shared sacrifice and a special concern for poor persons at home and abroad.

Unfortunately, the voices of poor and vulnerable people have not been heard in the debate, and as a result they are being forced to bear the brunt of the proposed cuts. The vast majority of the cuts come from the non-defense, discretionary portion of the budget (only about 12% of the total budget)--which includes the majority of social welfare, education, and other anti-poverty funding. Some of the largest proposed funding cuts include:

 $2.3 billion from job training programs
 $1.08 billion from Head Start
 $100 million from Emergency Food and Shelter
 $875 million from International Disaster Assistance
 $800 million from International Food Aid
 $2.5 billion from affordable housing
 $1 billion from Community Health Centers
 $904 million from migrants and refugees

Unfortunately, very few advocate the priority claim of poor and vulnerable people, which makes our voices so much more important and prophetic.

Recently Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, as well as Bishop Howard J. Hubbard and Ken Hackett, President of CRS, sent letters to the U.S. Senate expressing their concern with some of the cuts and calling for more attention to the needs of poor and vulnerable people.

What You Can Do

1. Call your Senators and Representative and tell them:
• Many proposals under discussion fail the moral criteria of Catholic social teaching to advance the common good and the Constitutional requirement to promote the general welfare.
• Poor and vulnerable people didn’t cause our budget deficit. Don’t make them pay for it.
• As the final bill is negotiated, shared sacrifice should guide spending cuts, not disproportionate cuts in programs that serve poor persons at home or abroad.
• Responsible leadership for the common good is needed to avert a government shutdown that would most negatively impact those with the least resources.
2. Email your Senators and Representative with the above message, possibly adding specifically how these cuts will prohibit your diocese/parish/community from adequately serving the poor and vulnerable. You can use the bishops’ letters as a template.
3. Help your diocese, parish, community organizations, and families understand the consequences of these deficit-reduction proposals on poor and vulnerable people. See these documents for details.

Take Action NOW.

For more information visit the United States Conference of Catholics Bishops webpage at: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/

In the Catholic tradition, government has a positive role because of its responsibility to serve the common good, provide a safety net for the vulnerable, and help overcome discrimination and ensure equal opportunity for all. Government has inescapable responsibilities toward those who are poor and vulnerable, to ensure their rights and defend their dignity. Government action is necessary to help overcome structures of injustice and misuse of power and to address problems beyond the reach of individual and community efforts. Government must act when these other institutions fall short in defending the weak and protecting human life and human rights. -U.S. Catholic Bishops, A Place at the Table

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